I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not a fan of the Hit-by-Pitch. Sure, I’m happy to get a free baserunner if a Yankee gets plunked, but I despise the idea that a team needs to retaliate just because one of their own was hit. Why on earth would you giftwrap the opponent a free baserunner? Especially when playing a team like the Red Sox, where that runner has a better-than-league-average likelihood of coming around to score? But I digress.
Reader Geoffrey recently e-mailed us asking if we could quantify the number of hit-by-pitches that the Yankees have inflicted upon Boston and vice versa over the last 15 years. The numbers highlighted in yellow below indicate seasons where the Red Sox or Yankees were responsible for the highest number of HBPs in the American League against the other. Granted, they play each other so frequently that it’s not terribly surprising that one would lead the league in HBPs against the other in a given year, but I figured the additional layer of data might be somewhat useful.
(Data c/o Baseball-Reference)
I thought we might see a significant spike in Yankee HBPs by Boston in 1998, given that that was the first year Pedro Martinez wore a Boston uniform, but in fact that season represented a 15-year low. However, the HBP total began to trend upwards, and reached absurd proportions in 2004, when the Sox hit the Yankees 18 times, and the Yankees returned the favor 15 times of their own — both of which were the high numbers for these two teams on the above chart.
Anyway, for those looking to pour gasoline on an unnecessary fire, the Red Sox have indeed hit the Yankees with a pitch considerably more often than the Yankees have done to the Sox during the last 15 years — in fact, Boston has hit nearly 40 more Yankees in that timeframe than the Yankees have hit Red Sox.
However, I look at those numbers and see all of the extra opportunities the Red Sox have given the Yankees to score over the years, rather than suffer indignation because Boston is hitting the Bombers’ players and the Yankees are supposedly doing nothing about it. Let the Red Sox keep giving the Yankees additional baserunners; at the end of the day it’s all about who scored more runs, not who the bigger hard-ass was.
Oh, and for fun, here’s the above table in line graph form:
As you can see, the Yankees have only hit the Red Sox with more pitches than Boston has hit the Yankees with in two out of the last 15 seasons — 1998 and 2009. While it may be tempting to look at those years and somehow try to equate hitting Boston with pitches with winning championships, I would advise against that — this is clearly a random statistical fluctuation.
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